Parents cannot weigh risks sensibly

Parents are poor risk assessors

Parents are worried about all the wrong things when it comes to their children’s safety, Lisa Belkin writes in a New York Times column published Saturday. They constantly overestimate the danger of rare but highly publicized risks like school snipers, terrorists and strangers, when in fact the real risks to children come from car accidents, drowning and abuse — most often by people they know.

“It just goes to show how — and how poorly — we evaluate risk,” says Stier. “Because school shootings always seem to show up on the evening news, and even though such incidents are rare, parents tend to focus on such events.”

The most dangerous thing parents can do that puts their child at risk, according to the NYT article? Drive them anywhere.

ACSH newsletter, Sept 20 2010

Syndicated,
David Tribe

Written by David Tribe

David Tribe’s research career in academia and industry has covered molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbial evolution and biotechnology. He has over 60 publications and patents. Dr. Tribe's recent activities focus on agricultural policy and food risk management. He teaches graduate programs in food science and risk management as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne.

One comment

  1. In one sense, they are weighing risk sensibly. They are weighing risk according to how they perceive it, and while they are being bombarded with a lot of news about low-risk phenomena, we have evolved to evaluate things as our world appears to be. Not everyone can spend the time thinking everything through all the way. That being said, treating high risk things as low risk, and low risk as high risk is indeed irrational, and something needs to be done about it. There is the strategy of trying to educate people about how to weigh risks, and then there’s the strategy of jumping in the fray to alter the ratio of what risk perceptions they are exposed to.

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